7 Simple Strategies to Motivate Your Podiatric Staff and Improve Workplace Culture

If you’ve ever spent any time working in a podiatry office (and if you’re reading this blog, you almost certainly have), you know that every day is a team effort.

A competent, confident, motivated team makes everyone’s lives easier—including the patients that you serve.

On the flipside, a team that has been weakened and demotivated by unclear expectations, managerial mistakes, excessive inefficiency, or any other reason can put a real drag on your practice. Workplace culture, work ethic, patient care, and even revenue and reputation can be put at risk.

Now, it’s no big secret that happy and motivated employees, generally speaking, are good employees. And the good news is that the vast majority of people, deep down, want to do well and want to take pride in what they do. For every staff person that’s incurably toxic, there are a dozen that will absolutely give their best effort and do you proud if placed in the right circumstances.

But how do you nurture and protect that sense of motivation? How do you re-invigorate a team that seems to be losing its sense of unity—or prevent motivation loss entirely?

That’s a bigger question than we can answer in a simple blog, and it’s going to require some self-reflection, and maybe some brutal honesty. Employee motivation is complex and multifaceted; there’s not a single approach or model that works with 100 percent of people 100 percent of the time.

That being said, we’ve compiled a list of simple tips, starting points, and things to consider. We hope you find these suggestions useful as you seek to re-energize and motivate your team!

Get to know your people on a personal level

It may seem strange that we even have to say this at all. And if you have a very small office, or you happen to be naturally very social, it’s going to happen automatically.

But in our experience, there really are a lot of physicians out there who don’t really interact much with the front office, and managers who like to keep things “strictly professional.” Not all of us have outgoing personalities, so making personal connections can be a struggle.

But even if you are naturally very reserved, it’s still 100% worth the effort to make personal connections with each person on your team.

No, your staff don’t have to all be “best friends” in order to work great together. But do make an effort to get to know one another, learn about their personal hobbies and interests, and check in regularly. It can really help build a strong sense of teamwork and loyalty to one another.

There’s another benefit to this as well—different people are motivated by different things. Getting to know team members on a personal level allows you to tailor your management style to get the best out of each one.

Regularly offer praise, credit, and recognition for a job well done

It won’t solve all your problems, but never underestimate how being quick to praise and thank your team members can improve motivation and mood.

That doesn’t mean you patronize them or offer praise when it isn’t warranted, of course; your staff are smart enough to know if you’re being sincere. But honest, unreserved praise—and willingness to give other people credit for successes—means a lot. Not only does it make people feel better and more motivated, but it also reinforces good habits and decisions.

And when you praise and give credit publicly, and (crucially) explain why what they did was so valuable or helpful to you, you are going to see that kind of behavior proliferate among your staff.

Make the connection between roles and goals

Here’s an important part of a separate but related concept.

Every single member of your team contributes to the overall practice goals—from the physicians to the front desk staff to the janitorial service. If you don’t believe us, try practicing in an office that hasn’t been cleaned for a few weeks!

Yet when people are focused on the day-to-day minutiae of their jobs, it isn’t always easy to see how it all fits together. People may start to feel that what they do isn’t important or isn’t as valued as what others do.

So, make an effort whenever possible to draw a direct line from each role and task to the broader practice goals. Make sure everybody knows that their work is valued, and everyone shares in your successes. When people know that what they do matters, they’ll generally be more motivated to do it well.

Save your criticisms and corrections for private chats

Everybody makes a mistake once in a while. And everyone has gaps in their knowledge that may lead them to making an incorrect call.

In 99.9 percent of those cases, the mistake is an honest one, and your team member is already embarrassed (if they even realize a mistake has been made in the first place).

When you need to correct, make sure you do it in private, and keep it as positive and constructive as possible. And always listen to their side of the story first. Give your people the benefit of the doubt—you hired them because you trust them, right? What seems like obvious disregard to you, at first, might not be so obvious after all—and that means it’s a training moment for both of you, rather than an argument.

Most of the time, your team member will not only appreciate your honesty and restraint but will be even more motivated to do better next time.

Ask their opinions

We’re willing to bet you have a ton of smart people with lots of great ideas on your team. Are you regularly engaging and utilizing that knowledge—or its untapped potential?

Just because you work at the front desk doesn’t mean you can’t have a great idea that could help improve patient care. Just because you work as a medical assistant doesn’t mean you can’t have a great suggestion for your marketer.

Make a habit of regularly asking your employees for their opinions on their job, the practice, and what could be improved. Include them in brainstorming sessions when addressing a known problem in the practice. You could even consider sending out periodic surveys to take the “pulse” of your practice and learn more about hidden perceptions and attitudes.

Never ignore a great suggestion just because of who it came from—and be sure to give your people the credit they deserve if you adopt their ideas.

Asking questions, listening, and including your team helps them to feel empowered and motivated, and creates a sense of unity, purpose, even belonging. And of course, more good ideas and more motivated employees means better efficiency and more revenue, too.

Cross train your team

This is just solid advice for lots of reasons—and personal motivation is one of them.

Having members of your team cross-trained in different roles and jobs not only improves office efficiency and flexibility, but it also helps your employees feel useful and—quite frankly—can give them something else to do.

Many practice jobs can get repetitive, so learning new skills and allowing your team members to pick up new tasks can keep people mentally engaged and motivated.

Invest in them

Let’s take that a step further.

As we said, 99.9 percent of the time, your team wants to do their best and deliver great results for the practice. But they don’t always know how to do that. And when that lack of knowledge and training yields less-than-stellar results, motivation can drain away very quickly.

The antidote to this state of affairs is to invest in your people—show them you care about what they do and are committed to their professional development.

And one of the best ways to do that is to bring your team along with you to the next AAPPM conference. We’re the only professional group in podiatry committed to offering comprehensive training for all members of your team, with dedicated sessions and tracks for physicians, office managers, and medical assistants.

With the AAPPM, you have a group of peers as well as industry experts who have been in your shoes and have a lot of personal knowledge and insight to share. And we’re all about sharing—what works best, what doesn’t work at all, and what skills you really need to develop in order to excel in your role.

We are also proud to offer the only fully accredited certification program specific to podiatric practice executive managers—the CMOM-POD program. This certification is provided and administered exclusively by the AAPPM and covers just about everything a podiatric office manager needs to master in order to excel—compliance, administration, employee relations, financial management, managed care, marketing, DME, insurance, billing, and more.

When you teach your employees how to do the job right, and empower them to do so, you may find it’s a lot easier for everyone to stay motivated!

To learn more about how the AAPPM can help you and your team, please feel free to explore this website, or give us a call at (517) 484-1930.